Breast Cancer


Susan Dent, MD

Associate Director, Clinical Research

Donald McDonnell, PhD

Associate Director, Basic Science Research


Duke Cancer Institute’s nationally recognized Breast Cancer disease group offers diagnostics, genetic and prevention counseling, and state-of-the-art treatments for early and advanced-stage disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States. One in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. And, each year, a small number of men are also diagnosed with breast cancer.

The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Breast cancer can also begin in the cells of the lobules and in other tissues in the breast. Breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue is called invasive breast cancer. In inflammatory breast cancer, the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm because the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin.

Recent discoveries in genetics and genomics hold great promise. Our multi-disciplinary research team is working to translate these new discoveries into the next generation of targeted therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. We are also testing these new therapies in investigator-initiated and multi-institutional clinical trials.

Treatment & Support

Breast surgeon E. Shelley Hwang, MD, consults with a patient. Breast surgeon E. Shelley Hwang, MD, consults with a patient. We take a personalized approach to assessing risk for breast cancer and we have clinics devoted to specific types of breast cancer, different age groups, and unique healthcare needs, including sexual health and fertility issues for women in their childbearing years.

Mammography is available at six convenient locations in Durham and Wake counties. We also have genetic counselors for those at risk for inherited breast cancer. 

Our physicians have contributed to new breast cancer treatment approaches including two of the most recently FDA-approved drugs for breast cancer:

  • Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) has been referred to as a “smart bomb” because it targets the tumor, lacks significant side effects, and offers patients a better quality of life.
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb), also developed by Duke physicians and researchers, treats HER2-positive breast cancer by targeting and blocking the signals that breast tumors need to grow. It’s an added option for women whose breast cancer has stopped responding to treatments.

Our cancer support services help minimize the side effects of treatment and help patient cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. Our breast cancer survivorship  clinic offers resources to help survivors after treatment ends and we also host breast cancer support groups.

More Information

Breast Cancer Treatment Options: Expert Guidance for Your Breast Cancer Care 

Make An Appointment

To make an appointment, please call 888.275.3853.

Find A Specialist

Research Focus Areas

Since its inception, our disease group has successfully fostered scientific interactions between members of the Duke Cancer Institute who have basic, translational, and clinical research interests in breast cancer.

We have developed five subprograms that draw from our translational research strength and ability to translate basic science discoveries to impact the early detection and treatment of breast cancer:

  • Early detection strategies for breast cancer
  • Methylation imprinting and epigenetic dysregulation
  • Basic breast cancer biology and novel therapeutic targeting
  • Genomics
  • Disparities for African American women

The diversity of interests and experimental approaches used by the members of the Breast Cancer disease group represents an effective environment for fostering cross-fertilization of ideas aimed at understanding breast cancer.

In addition, the program supports developmental projects, new faculty awards, and tissue procurement and banking.

Additional Contacts

Tonya Miltier, Administrative Director
Phone: 919.660.4124

Erin Clelland, PhD Assistant Research Practice Manager
Phone: 919.613.0843

Clinical Trials

Our clinical trials give eligible breast cancer patients access to new therapies before they are approved. Our physicians are investigating new ways to approach breast tumors, how exercise impacts treatment and survival, and how to improve the quality of our patients’ lives. Our trials are using new vaccines to treat different types of breast cancer, including early stage breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.